April 22, 2010

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Thirty Seconds to Mars, This is War
EMI Records, April 27

Things to Despise Dept.: “Epic” is quickly replacing the crutch-word “awesome” in modern rugrat slang. It’s a word I don’t think I’ve ever used in a review or a story or on a job application, but it’s deserved, in its classic usage, here. After a (well deserved) legal pummeling by Virgin Records, Jared Leto, his brother and their disposable cardboard guitarist turned to the only people who hadn’t made life miserable during the ordeal, their fans. There are 2000 different insert “covers” for this album, one for each fan that turned up at some fan-love thingamajig in L.A. or whatnot. That’s nice and all, but much more important are the vocal choruses a doubly-lucky half of them added to this album, lending some — urk, ouch — epic touches to these instantly likeable if most uncomplicated arena-rock tunes.

To get a grip on this album, older rock users will have to forgive Leto his Dante method singing technique, which makes everyone sound like Hoobastank, but stop being old for a second and there’s no way you can’t crank “Kings and Queens” (and much else of this) til it hurts. The mass-of-humanity singing sounds right out of anything you’ve caught on the Palladia channel, and its epicness accidentally turns the thing into a concept album. No rocket science here, no, but it’s a new angle that seriously destroys. AEric W. Saeger